Book Review: Give Them Grace

In Give Them Grace, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson aim to encourage parents to dazzle their children with the grace the parents themselves have first experienced through Christ. The book is separated into 3 parts with each part showing a different angle of how grace is crucial to family life. This book departs from many parenting books in its avoidance of giving very specific instructions or checklists on how to get children to obey. On the contrary, the authors stress that children should be directed to put their faith in Christ who has obeyed in every single way to commands of His Father. Instead of demanding obedience through threats or punishment, the parent is to show how Christ has taken all the punishments we deserve for our sins already. Indeed, children are recipients of God’s grace and it is to their gain to be exposed to God’s grace at an early age. Fitzpatrick and Thompson argue that we force children to obey rules when they simply cannot do so using their own efforts. This is not to say that children can disobey rules all they like but the basis for parenting should always focus on the gospel of grace. The book does provide a framework by which gospel-based parenting should look like: Manage, Nurture, Train, Correct, and Promise. To illustrate this framework, an appendix included shows how these five elements could be used to in everyday life (e.g. when a child is angry) to remind one’s children of the grace found in Christ alone. The authors advise wisely that parents should not apply their illustrations blindly but to seek guidance from the Holy Spirit on how to deal with specific situations.

In reading this book, I applaud the authors for helping readers see that grace is what saves and sustains both parents and their children. Without children of my own, I can only observe from afar the frustrations and challenges of raising godly children. Indeed, there are many sincere Christian parents who, despite their best efforts, have raised children that end up rejecting Christianity altogether. This book encourages parents to not give up on their children but trust in the powerful grace that flows from Christ. However, I did find the book to be repetitive at times and the content drifts somewhat off-topic as the bulk of content were dedicated to discussions between law and grace. I understand the authors are trying to eradicate any form of works-based mentality that parents may have but much of the book seemed more intent on examining the doctrine of justification by grace rather than about parenting. Much of the book could actually be removed and constitute an entirely separate book on the doctrine of grace. Naturally, one could see how the gospel is supposed to impact all aspects of our life including parenting but how it practically works out in the act of parenting seems to be left unanswered. At the end of the book, I still cannot see how the authors reconcile the need for grace while upholding discipline and obedience. For sure we are to preach the gospel to our kids by reminding them of their sinfulness and need for God’s grace. Moreover, we can certainly tell kids to obey because Jesus obeys but what are we to do afterwards if the child disagrees? Do we simply keep on repeating those words and hope that it sinks in one day? How do we stress obedience while asking our children to fall back onto God’s grace? In essence, my question for the authors is this: In the context of parenting, how do we teach our kids both the doctrine of justification and the doctrine of sanctification?

In summary, I do recommend this book for parents who have become tired or discouraged over the years from the disappointments in parenting. The authors remind parents that godly children are the result of the gospel transforming their lives not a product of the parents’ successful parenting methods. The role of parents is to display the grace that they have experienced through Christ to awaken their children to their own sinfulness and their need for a Saviour.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.

Book Review: Side By Side

In Side by Side, Edward Welch invites readers to both seek help and give help to those around them. The book is split into two parts “We Are Needy” and “We Are Needed.” The first part addresses our need for help from God and the people around us. Sin has fractured all aspects of our lives from our hearts to the ends of creation leading us to being persistently plagued by a sense of unceasing guilt and hopelessness. Welch points out that the solution does not lie within us but outside of us. The basis for any hope that we may have is rooted only in the work of Christ on the cross. Through Him, we are freed from the guilt and shame that we may feel day after day and can live an abundant life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, God did not save us alone but saved us with a community of fellow forgiven sinners who are ready and able to help us on our way. Thus, the first part of the book establishes the neediness we feel and how we can cry out for help from God and others. In the second part, Welch begins by reminding that each believer, enabled by the Spirit, can reach out to help those around them. Afterwards, a series of chapters offer specific advice on how to approach others in an effort to connect with them on a deeper level. This may be through thoughtful conversations on a Sunday morning or speaking a kind word to a neighbour overwhelmed by troubling circumstances. Although the book is short and the flow is somewhat sporadic, Welch packs in many years of counselling experience and wisdom into executable steps that every Christian believer can undertake. In fact, the author even provides the script that one can use such as the following example: “‘It might not seem like much, but I am with you in this. I feel the burden and have been praying for your comfort.’” (page 113).  It is Welch’s aim to encourage Christians to be ready and eager to stand side by side with those around them by exhorting them through Scripture, praying with them constantly, and engaging them in heart-level conversation.

I would recommend this book to Christians who want to care for those around them but always stop short of doing so. I know fear often grips me when I try to connect with a newcomer or comfort a sick church member. It seems like saying the right words at the right time is an impossible task. In this book, Welch wants to motivate readers to step out in humility and enter into caring relationships with those in their community. A word of advice to readers is that the practical examples and scripts that Welch provides are simply illustrations of how one can approach a situation. To properly care for those around us, we need to pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit as we try to navigate the specific circumstances of those we seek to encourage. Using a one-size-fits-all mentality would be inappropriate and likely result in frustration for all parties. However, I do appreciate how Welch makes the book accessible by providing these concrete examples instead of staying in the realm of abstract theory. Welch’s exhortation is simple and clear: as sinners who have experienced the power of the Gospel, we are free to both receive and give help to those that God has placed in our lives.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.

Welch on Suffering and Sin

“Suffering feels like our biggest problem and avoiding it like our greatest need—but we know that there is something more. Sin is actually our biggest problem, and rescue from it is our greatest need. There is a link between the two. Suffering exposes the sin in our hearts in a way that few things can. When our lives are trouble free, we can confuse personal satisfaction for faith. We can think that God is good, and we are pleased with him, though we might be pleased less with him than we are with the ease of our lives. Then, when life is hard—especially when life remains hard—the allegiances of our hearts become more apparent.”

Edward Welch in Side by Side